Julia Lavigne is an illustrator and my new favorite person in the world. (Sorry husband and kids.)

I wrote some words — and Julia turned the words into ART. Virtual high five to Julia! And a hug! And a smooch! And then one more high five! There are seven more of our cartoons featured on the Huffington Post right now so please go look and then, if you like them, share them with people you love. If you don’t like them, share them with people you hate. I don’t care. Just share them. 

Woe Is Toddlerdom

I wrote this essay for Babble in 2011 and every once in a while a friend will ask me about “the toddler thing” I wrote. Here it is again. Well, here’s some of it and a link to the rest on Babble.

One morning, my then one-and-a-half-year-old son unlocked the child-safety latch of our bottom bathroom drawer. Upon finding my makeup, he began breathing heavily with excitement and staggering around. What a haul! What loot! Imagine his disappointment when, just as he was about to pry the shiny cap off a red lipstick, I picked him up and carried him out of the bathroom. I didn’t congratulate him on his discovery. I didn’t point him in the direction of the hallway’s white walls and say, “My home is your canvas. Go forth and create.” Instead, I ruined everything.

Before I had children, when I’d go to the grocery store and see a little kid in the cereal aisle screaming and crying, I’d shake my head. Why was it that every time I saw a toddler, he or she was throwing some kind of fit? What could be so difficult about spending the day playing, napping, and eating? Now, after living among their kind, I should apologize. Not to you, but to them. Here’s the sad truth: for toddlers, the world is a rough place full of squelched mysteries, restrained freedoms, and nonsensical commands. I think I’d rather be fourteen again than be a toddler.

What does an old, forgotten Goldfish cracker from the bottom of a car seat taste like? What kind of pattern does yogurt make when it splatters onto the floor? What sound do cookbook pages make as they are torn in half? These and many other great discoveries are often stopped by us, the big people in our toddlers’ lives.

How frustrating! What must it be like to get stopped by a security guard time and time again? To be constantly redirected and rerouted as you tried to go about your day, without an understanding of what you had done wrong? What if you sat down to read the newspaper and drink your coffee when suddenly – out of nowhere – some giant swooped down and plopped you in front of a pile of plastic blocks? You bet you’d protest. You’d holler your tush off.

So what’s the reward for a toddler’s natural curiosity? A little freedom and encouragement? No, just the opposite. Oppression! We pin them to furniture all day long: the stroller, the car seat, the high chair. All of the straps! All of the restraints! How maddening it must be to sit, captive, in front of a tray covered with food you can’t identify or don’t remember liking. No wonder it’s so often tossed to the floor.

Read the rest here… 

Today I have the opportunity to revisit a topic on Scary Mommy that I first addressed years ago. The need for a word to describe a new mother. Here’s the beginning and if you like it, you can read the rest on Scary Mommy. You can? I mean, you should! Yeah! 
An Open Letter to the Editors of the Oxford English Dictionary:
Let me get to the point. I know you are all very busy, and I’m incredibly busy too. I’m so busy that I don’t think I’ve brushed my teeth yet today. I probably shouldn’t have told you that. Please forget that I mentioned that.
Let’s start again. I’m writing because, last year, you added the word “selfie” to your dictionary.
“Selfie.”
That was the word you and all your nerd colleagues couldn’t live without. “Selfie” — a word that originated with Kim Kardashian or one of her sisters. Or her mom. It could have definitely been her mom. But I digress…
You chose “selfie” when there are so many others words you could have and should have chosen. Like what, you ask? (And thank you for asking.) Like “neomamma.”
That’s the word I would have added to your dictionary if I had been given the opportunity. And that’s specifically why I’m writing you. I’d like you to consider it for this year.
- See more at: http://www.scarymommy.com/neomamma/#sthash.BWxD5FLh.dpuf

Today I have the opportunity to revisit a topic on Scary Mommy that I first addressed years ago. The need for a word to describe a new mother. Here’s the beginning and if you like it, you can read the rest on Scary Mommy. You can? I mean, you should! Yeah! 

An Open Letter to the Editors of the Oxford English Dictionary:

Let me get to the point. I know you are all very busy, and I’m incredibly busy too. I’m so busy that I don’t think I’ve brushed my teeth yet today. I probably shouldn’t have told you that. Please forget that I mentioned that.

Let’s start again. I’m writing because, last year, you added the word “selfie” to your dictionary.

“Selfie.”

That was the word you and all your nerd colleagues couldn’t live without. “Selfie” — a word that originated with Kim Kardashian or one of her sisters. Or her mom. It could have definitely been her mom. But I digress…

You chose “selfie” when there are so many others words you could have and should have chosen. Like what, you ask? (And thank you for asking.) Like “neomamma.”

That’s the word I would have added to your dictionary if I had been given the opportunity. And that’s specifically why I’m writing you. I’d like you to consider it for this year.

- See more at: http://www.scarymommy.com/neomamma/#sthash.BWxD5FLh.dpuf

Sh%t Every New Parent Should Know

It does not go by so fast. People who tell you “it goes by so fast” do not have babies or small children at home. It goes by so slow. But you know what? That’s good! There’s more room for error! Be grateful.

They’re up all night to get lucky. Because their stomachs are so small, newborns need to eat roughly every 2-3 hours. This means they wake frequently. This means they wake you frequently. Thankfully, babies do have some good qualities: they smell good, don’t cheat on their taxes, and look good in hats. 

Sleep deprivation is the worst. It’s awful. It’s revolting. It causes confusion and memory loss. And it physically hurts. It’s like a really bad subway smell on a hot day – but in your brain. That said, blame everything and anything on sleep deprivation for as long as you possibly want.

The phrase ‘maternal instinct’ stinks. Here’s a quote from a popular website, “Once you give birth… feelings you never expected to have will surface as part of the process of becoming a parent.” Once you give birth, feelings you never expected magically surface? Is a switch flipped during delivery? And what if you’re a new parent who didn’t give birth? Does this mean you’re screwed? No. Sorry. Maternal instinct is, literally, for the birds. If you bond right away, terrific. If it takes much longer, so be it. Either way, you’ll still probably have to pay for the wedding one day.

Hold your baby as much as you damn want. You can’t spoil babies. You can, however, spoil teenagers. “My Super Sweet 16” is proof of that.

Breast is best but… Is there anyone reading this who doesn’t know, by now, that breast is best? We get it. We’ve heard. Breast milk rocks. There is no chemical composition available that can ever replicate what we lucky women can make ourselves, any time we want, for free. But even though it looks ridiculously easy when other people do it, breastfeeding is not ridiculously easy. So please be prepared and be patient. Breastfeeding can be difficult at first. And at second. And at third. It can take a lot of effort and practice and help to get it right. And sometimes breastfeeding doesn’t work out. Or it doesn’t work out for long. And - newsflash for some of you reading this! - it’s okay. 

It’s called childREARing for a reason. It’s unbelievable how often babies can poop, especially since they don’t even drink coffee. The frequency or color of babycrap ® (yes, that’s a registered trademark) doesn’t really matter. As long as the stool’s soft, not black or white, and blood as well as mucus-free, there’s nothing to freak out about. Well, there are things to freak out about – global warming, for example – but not your baby’s poop.

Get out. Babies are small. This works to your advantage in so many ways. First, it would be hard to give birth to one if they were big. Second, it makes diaper changing easier. And third, it means that babies are portable so you can take them almost anywhere. Yes, even to a bar. 

Get support. This is important for your boobs and this is important for you. Seriously a) you’re going to need some good bras whether you’re nursing or not and b) you’re going to need some good people with whom to talk, lean on, and commiserate. Join a new parents’ group or class as soon as you can because – don’t forget! – your baby is portable.

Get help. Ten to twenty percent of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression or anxiety. Ten to twenty percent. It’s so common. Why don’t we talk about this more? If you’re reading this and feel you might have symptoms of depression or anxiety, please don’t feel alone – because you’re not. If you feel depressed, overanxious, overwhelmed or are worried that you may have trouble taking care of yourself and your baby, call your doctor or reach out to a loved one right away.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Do you love your baby? Are you doing the best you can? Has anyone contacted the authorities? If you can answer “yes,” “yes” and “no” then pat yourself on the back because it’s going well so far!

(That’s all I’ve got for this year. See you in 2014. Not literally. But you know… Happy New Year!) 

(It’s August. There’s not a lot of time to write. May I offer you some stuff I already wrote? Oh. Good. I’ll be doing that for a couple weeks.) 

NEOMAMMA
By Melissa Sher

Open Letter to the Lexicographers at Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary

Here’s the deal. You have lots of words in the dictionary. And some of the words describe someone who’s new to something. In sports, there are “rookies.” High schools and colleges have “freshmen.” Even the newly born are aptly described as “newborns.” Newborns can’t do a single, darn thing, and they get their own word.

You know who doesn’t have their own dictionary entry? New moms. It’s bold, but I’m going to take it upon myself to speak for every new mom ever to say that we deserve a word of our own. We want something to describe being a first-time, clueless new mother who doesn’t know what she’s doing, doesn’t yet have maternal instinct (but thinks she’s supposed to) and is still bleeding and wearing maternity clothes. Oh, and did I forget to mention that she’s a wee bit tired? I don’t want to do your work for you, but I was thinking she could be called a “neomamma.”

If you’re going to try to defend yourselves and tell me that the dictionary has an entire “mother” category in it, don’t bother. I’ve seen it. “Den mother.” “Earth mother.” “Mother Carey’s chicken” – which I first mistook for “Mariah Carey’s chicken.” If you had to take one entry out of the dictionary to make room for “neomamma,” my vote would be “Mother Carey’s chicken.”

I believe a new mother needs a word that differentiates her from the mother of a toddler, a preschooler or a teenager. There is also a world of difference between a first-time mother and a seasoned mom who just had baby No. 2 or, depending on what reality shows you watch, Baby 23.

If you need more evidence, I would like to tell you a little bit about the first morning I spent at home alone with baby Numero Uno. He was probably about six days old. My parents were gone. My in-laws were gone. My husband, who was in law school, was back in class. There was no one around to ask about potentially infected umbilical cords or strange-looking poops.

The big event on my first real day on the job was what should have been a nice, relaxing walk around the block. I had bought a sling that came with its own instructional DVD. But not long after I left the apartment, I decided that the fabric was smothering my son’s face so I took him out and just started carrying him in my arms. Of course, a woman holding a newborn, wearing maternity clothes and an empty sling is going to attract attention. An older lady stopped me. “Oh. How sweet? What’s his name?”

I’m going to tell you something I’ve never before told anyone. I’m only including this to help make my case. If you ask me to admit this publicly, I’ll deny it. I blanked. Her question stumped me. “What’s his name?” What was his name? I couldn’t think of it.  The kid and I had only met earlier in the week. My husband and I had just named him. The name was still so new. It was like when you get a new phone number. The first few times someone asks you for it, you might have to read the number off a piece of paper. Or maybe you can’t recall if it’s “3423” or “3432.”

Only it wasn’t a seven-digit number, it was my CHILD’S NAME. After a couple of seconds – one second, two seconds, oh my God it felt like an eternity – the name came to me. But do you know what a “neomamma” I felt like? (See, how nicely that works?)

I walked back to my apartment and trudged slowly up the stairs, being careful not to hit my son’s head (or a soft spot!) on the staircase railing. When I opened the door to my empty apartment, I felt truly alone.

Fortunately, over time, I became more and more comfortable with my new role – and my new charge. Until one magical, yet unremarkable day, I shed my “neomamma” status and became, simply, mom.

Sincerely,

Melissa Sher

(This post originally ran in the New York Times’ Motherlode column on January 21, 2011.) 

I wrote an essay for the Huffington Post about why it’s never too late to bloom — and then kick some serious ass. Here’s the beginning and then the link to the rest. (Pictured: my friend Shannon in her roller derby gear. Photo by Steven L. Price.)
“Today would have been Phyllis Diller’s birthday. She passed away last year at the age of 95 and went, according to her son, with “a smile on her face.” Diller was the Queen of Comedy and a mother of five who blazed a great, big trail for those after her. Phyllis Diller was “leaning in” before “leaning in” was cool. The next time you take a sip from something today — and I don’t care if it’s wine, iced coffee or gazpacho — drink to her.
According to legend, Diller didn’t perform standup until she was 37. That was in 1955. With the way society’s changed since, I assume that’s the equivalent of starting out in comedy at age 50 today. But it doesn’t really matter. 37. 50. Either way, it’s rare.
Because most of us don’t do that. Most of us don’t try new things. We’re busy. We’re tired. We’re so tired. We’re also afraid. We don’t want to be rejected. We don’t want to look stupid. And we don’t want to fail. To borrow a book title: We’re too big to fail.” 
Read more.. 

I wrote an essay for the Huffington Post about why it’s never too late to bloom — and then kick some serious ass. Here’s the beginning and then the link to the rest. (Pictured: my friend Shannon in her roller derby gear. Photo by Steven L. Price.)

Today would have been Phyllis Diller’s birthday. She passed away last year at the age of 95 and went, according to her son, with “a smile on her face.” Diller was the Queen of Comedy and a mother of five who blazed a great, big trail for those after her. Phyllis Diller was “leaning in” before “leaning in” was cool. The next time you take a sip from something today — and I don’t care if it’s wine, iced coffee or gazpacho — drink to her.

According to legend, Diller didn’t perform standup until she was 37. That was in 1955. With the way society’s changed since, I assume that’s the equivalent of starting out in comedy at age 50 today. But it doesn’t really matter. 37. 50. Either way, it’s rare.

Because most of us don’t do that. Most of us don’t try new things. We’re busy. We’re tired. We’re so tired. We’re also afraid. We don’t want to be rejected. We don’t want to look stupid. And we don’t want to fail. To borrow a book title: We’re too big to fail.” 

Read more.. 

The Best Parenting Lesson Ever (Maybe)

Terry Gross interviewed Bill Hader on “Fresh Air” last year, and he told her a story with the single greatest parenting lesson in it of all time. 

"I remember getting in the elevator for my [Saturday Night Live] audition and there was a guy next to me who had a backpack full of props and wigs and things, and I went, ‘Oh my God that guy is so prepared. I have nothing. I have no props.’ And that was Andy Samberg. And Andy Samberg said he was looking at me going, ‘Oh, that guy has no props. He doesn’t need props.’”

What does this have to do with parenting, you ask? First of all, how dare you doubt the single greatest parenting story of all time? But, that said, no, Bill Hader’s story isn’t actually about being a parent. The word “parenting” wasn’t actually mentioned. He never actually said the word “dad” or “mom” or “poopy diaper.” But the story still has everything to do with parenting because we are constantly comparing ourselves to other parents, and that’s stupid because parenting isn’t a race or a competition YET. 

You see, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. And by the way, that expression is just THE WORST. It’s awful. The person who came up with it was a sicko. Why would anyone want to skin a cat? Let’s just forget I brought that up.  

Parenting. Maybe you’re doing it right.